Fashion: looking for the right fit
Our country has a lot to offer to the fashion industry, from the rich heritage of handlooms to an unending resource of craft knowledge. We have the potential to conceive ideas that are unimaginable in most parts of the world. There has, however, been a lack of belief and identity. There is a sense of insecurity, visible in the nervous imitations of Western brands. Excessive use of embroidery seems like an attempt to hide rather than embellish.
Fortunately, this is now changing—and will continue to change further over the next decade. There is a burgeoning sense of pride in the Indian fashion industry, especially in indigenous textiles and techniques. The sari has again become a coveted piece for modern women, going beyond occasions. There is a wave of designers reinterpreting handlooms in creative and contemporary fashion. Patola and Maheshwari weaves are being constructed into modern shirt-dresses. We are starting to realize that if we really want to have an original voice, we need to believe in what is truly ours while staying relevant.
It is a significant time to be part of the fashion industry, people have started raising issues of quality and authenticity. A few years ago, some groundbreaking shifts in fashion products and trends became evident, from embellished to simple yet striking, from fitted to oversized, from glossy to plain, from wedding-wear to everyday- and work-wear. Over the next decade, the market might start understanding that a designer garment does not always have to be over-the-top. A good fit flatters your body structure; it needn’t cling to it. People may ironically wear a heavily embroidered jacket to work and a plain silk sari to their best friend’s wedding. Things are changing, and this is only the beginning.
At the moment, the market is in a confused state. Many Western high-street brands are entering the market at a time when people are struggling to understand what “designer clothing” actually means. It is relatively easy to start a fashion label in our country; to keep one going and survive in the business, beating back the competition, is a different story altogether. By the next decade, only brands with a unique point of view and good quality will stand out.
India has emerged as an important market in global fashion—economically and culturally. The West, looking for freshness, is intrigued by what’s happening in the East. The world finds our culture and heritage charming but whether they trust us with the contemporary translation of heritage ideas isn’t certain. To reassert its creative leadership, India will become more decisive as a fashion voice in the next decade.
The perception of Indian fashion design has already started shifting in a positive direction. Earlier, we were taken seriously only for our wedding- or occasion-wear. Now, some of us are considered to be on a par with international brands for luxury prêt. Yet we are essentially known more for our manufacturing skills than for design.
While technology will play an important role in the industry, people will explore history to decode the future. I feel there will be a beautiful amalgamation of the past and the future to understand the present.
E-commerce will play an important role and digital presence will become more important than an offline presence. We will also see fashion moving beyond the big cities to tier II and tier III towns in the next decade. We usually wonder why local fashion labels haven’t grown beyond a certain level, but this will change. Local labels will set new standards—Indian standards of excellence and quality.
Over the next 10 years, we may also see the rise of alternative fashion journalism and experimental zines. New voices will emerge through visual language. Magazines might want to move beyond making everything look flawless. Their imagery might highlight what is real even if it is unconventional. The Motherland magazine is a good example with its use of non-glossy paper—it blurs the lines between art and fashion. The seeds of such transformation are also evident in online journals such as Border&Fall and blogs like Wearabout.wordpress.com.
Another interesting aspect may be that jobs in the industry will grow beyond the primary roles of designer, supplier, stylist. At the moment, every fashion graduate wants his/her own label. The next generation will be smarter, it will dig up “in-between” roles such as editing collections for brands or being an expert in colours, becoming a concept consultant or a sustainability adviser, starting a wholesale agency or taking care of business development. They might identify the missing links pivotal to the success of fashion brands of the next decade.
Over-intellectualizing fashion will continue, though many of us may not know what it means to be ethical or sustainable or historians or purists. I think that’s the beauty of our industry: What would we be without the romance of it? We all like to think of ourselves as artists after all.
Ruchika Sachdeva is a fashion designer and founder of designer fashion label Bodice. She has been featured on the Forbes India ‘30 Under 30’ list in 2015.
This is part of a series of articles in Mint’s 10th anniversary special issue that look at India 10 years from now. The entire list of articles can be found here